The pandemic has provided the time and headspace for self-reflection. Being homebound for the past few months has led me to question many aspects of my life. One thought that continues to swirl through my subconscious: do I still have friends?
This simple question seems rhetorical, but it has plagued me with feelings of self-doubt and loneliness. Spending the second half of my freshman year at home was a roller coaster ride of emotions. The looming fear of the virus, the anticipation of the fast-approaching end of the semester, and excitement for the summer. These past months have been unique. Normally summer would be full of catching up with old friends and enjoying the sun, but instead, I have been focusing on personal wellbeing and attempting to stay motivated throughout this isolation.
For most college freshmen, the second semester of their first year involves solidifying new friendships, finishing strong, and looking forward to their sophomore year. This year has been unorthodox, to say the least, thus I think this is the time to start unconventional hobbies. One specific hobby we should try to popularize is letter writing. Not only does a handwritten correspondence function as a means of communication but provides individuals with an additional moment of contemplation.
Blessed to have a strong bond with my family, my friendships are not my only source of joy and comradeship in my life. But recently, I have missed the face to face interactions I had taken for granted whilst at college. I miss greeting friends with a hug on the way to class, grabbing dinner together after a long day, or late-night walks back to the dorms. I miss the evening study sessions and yearn to attend school events. Most importantly, I crave the feeling of freedom that fills me when I spend time building relationships. Something about recounting your daily activities and sharing personal information through a letter feeds my hunger for the emotional vulnerability of a friendship.
As a part of Generation Z, and I am not proud of this, I am constantly looking at my phone. Watching YouTube videos, listening to Spotify, or continually checking for texts. Addicted to the instant gratification of receiving messages from friends, and Facetiming late into the night. When I do not hear from my friends regularly, I second guess and overthink the sanctity of our relationship. Continuously wondering if I am interesting enough or if the people who I thought were my friends shared my sentiments. Even though I am surrounded by people who love and support me, I feel lonely. At the beginning of the pandemic, The New York Times reported on college students' forlorn sentiments.
“Stress and college seem to go hand in hand, but the sudden emptying out of campuses across the United States has increased the anxiety for many students, who find themselves isolated from their peers, packed together with their parents and full of worry over what the future holds.”
Back in May, many of us first encountered these feelings of social isolation, but I am not alone in saying that my feelings of loneliness are still present. NPR reported on how the UCLA Loneliness Scales surveyed young adults across the country.
"More than half of survey respondents — 54 percent % — said they always or sometimes feel that no one knows them well. Fifty-six percent reported they sometimes or always felt like the people around them "are not necessarily with them." And 2 in 5 felt like "they lack companionship," that their "relationships aren't meaningful" and that they "are isolated from others."
As young people mature into adulthood, one of the key factors of change is adapting socially. The friendships we make as young adults differ from the ones we first formed on the playground. Like many young adults, I can be insecure about my ability to keep friendships alive and sustain them.
Part of my doubt stems from my lack of social media. I do not have a Snapchat or Instagram; thus I am not constantly posting weekly or keeping streaks alive. Relying on texting to keep my college friendships alive is not enough. Instead, I am turning to video applications that provide some sense of normalcy within my friendships.
Facetime and Zoom are the new normal when it comes to spending time with one another. But, what about old fashioned forms of communication? I receive immense pleasure from a physical piece of mail or postcard.
I believe that now is the time to renew our friendships through snail mail. Letter writing forces me to take time out of my day to compose a meaningful message and provides me with a small meditative experience. Detaching my glued eyes from a screen and instead reintroducing my hand to paper and pen. Letter writing may be a dying talent, but these are unchartered uncharted waters we are navigating through. Now is the time to reconnect with new friends with an old art form and these are not purely my sentiments. The New York times interviewed Oregonite mother, Laura Stanfill on the impact letter writing has had on her life during the pandemic.
“All this letter writing and card making is a way forward in my grief. We’re centered at home, and to be able to share something and send something to a person we can’t see feels really important."
I anticipate reigniting my faith in my relationships through letter writing. I hope to send funny messages and share heartfelt sentiments, and in a time where things are uncertain, I am always looking forward to receiving a special envelope of human connection that brightens my day.
This is the opinion of Caroline Thoms, a sophomore English major from Chicago, Illinois. Tweet comments @LALoyolan or email email@example.com.